Almost everyone dislikes meetings.
According to a report by Doodle, an online meeting scheduling service, 37% of employees believe their company’s biggest waste of resources is pointless meetings — but that’s generally because most meetings are not focused, organized, or fun. Many are essential, however, and one of the most essential is the daily stand-up.
What are stand-up meetings?
A stand-up is a short team meeting done at regular intervals — typically either daily or weekly — to provide transparency of the team’s activity and get ahead of potential roadblocks. The ritual originated with Agile software development teams (where additions to the work are handled in iterative stages) but can be applied to just about any workflow, including Kanban boards and Scrum frameworks.
It was tough enough to do this in an office setting, but collaboration in a digital format is a lot more relevant now that so many companies have gone to remote work. Beyond having a project management function, a stand-up is also a chance for everyone on the team to speak, as well as practice team building.
Instead of another unproductive “catch-up” meeting, you should use the time during a stand-up to hold focused, meaningful, and effective daily updates that keep teams engaged and tasks on schedule.
6 tips to make your daily stand-ups more effective
1. Keep your stand-ups short and focused
Short meetings sharpen the meeting’s focus on key objectives. They also let very busy teammates get on with their days. Typically, an effective stand-up is time-boxed to 15 minutes or so.
Mural also has a Facilitator Superpower (administrative functionality that Mural admins receive) feature called the timer, which allows you to time-box activities you run in a mural. (Learn more about Facilitation Superpower™ features.) If you realize you need more time for an activity, you can also add extra time on the fly in increments of 1 or 5 minutes. Participants will be notified when you start the timer, if you add time or pause the clock, and when the time is up, so everyone stays in sync.
Even though the daily stand-up can be used outside of a Scrum framework, traditional Scrum guidelines suggest you focus on only three questions so that the meeting can address tasks quickly and move on:
- What did you accomplish yesterday?
- What are you doing today?
- What roadblocks did you encounter?
2. Use templates to inspire and guide your next stand-up
But just because you have only 15 minutes and three questions to answer, it doesn’t mean that the meeting has to be dull. There are MURAL templates that can assist with a daily huddle by helping you create agendas, craft fun check-in activities, and center your priorities with easy-to-follow visual prompts. These templates not only help teams collaborate but foster teamwork as well.
If you need help with supercharging your stand-ups, Mural templates provide you with inspiration and motivation.
For a birds-eye view of the meeting, use the Team Stand-up template
The Team Stand-up template is a great starting point and a simple way to get straight to the heart of an effective stand-up — answering the three questions. It also lets you load the backlog, schedule the kickoff activity, and visually lay out the stand-up process while allowing you to move tasks from one column in the template to another.
The Team Stand-up template incorporates a Kanban board to give a more holistic view of what team members are working on and what still needs to be done. Its best use is for team leads that are just getting into incorporating daily stand-ups into their process.
For prioritizing daily work, use the Ultimate Team Stand-up template
The Ultimate Team Stand-up template is very similar to the Team Stand-up template, but, you know, Ultimate. It’s probably the most effective for team leaders or facilitators who have established the regimen of a daily stand-up and want to improve on the process. It contains a check-in activity and focuses on task priorities, which team leaders or facilitators may find more urgent than a three-question check-in.
It’s a little non-traditional because each person can only choose one top priority for the day, making this much more focused — traditional stand-up purists (we know you’re out there), don’t fret. It’s really more of a check-in than a traditional stand-up, so it’s a good alternative for team members that just need an efficient way to stay aligned.
PRO TIP: Use the LUMA Institute's Ultimate Team Stand-Up template to quickly get your meetings on track and efficient.
For Agile teams, go with the Daily Scrum Meeting template
We also have the Daily Scrum Meeting template. This is a stand-up template designed specifically for Scrum teams, but unless you are also using a Scrum framework, this one is not as simple or organic to use for daily stand-ups as the first two.
It’s a traditional Scrum stand-up template that also uses a check-in activity but then veers from the other two templates by adding traditional Scrum task columns — the Sprint backlog, the In Progress tasks, the Completed tasks, and the Blocked column. If you’re using an Agile framework and incorporating Scrum into your workflow, this is the template for you. You might also benefit from this template that teaches Scrum to your teams.
3. Introduce some fun to the process
Giving teammates a quick chance to unwind with warm-up exercises or ice breakers fosters a cooperative environment and allows normally reticent team members to come forward with suggestions and feedback about the tasks addressed.
One way for team leaders and facilitators to help their teams unwind is with the warm-up exercise Pick Your Cat/Dog, included in the Ultimate Team Stand-up template and Daily Scrum Meeting template. Pick Your Cat/Dog lets team members pick their favorite feline/canine from preset photos, attach the color tags they’ll be using to identify themselves in the template, and then attach a preset mood to each (even though you want to have some fun with this activity, remember to keep it short in order to accommodate the parameters of the 15-minute stand-up).
By way of animal characters, team members can indicate how they are feeling that day. A short discussion about any patterns might emerge (e.g., a lot of teammates might say they’re “Climbing the walls” as cats) and can get the group talking.
4. Set aside time for feedback after
If you hold a daily stand-up and fail to seek out feedback from your team, you may be missing out on some great ideas and problem-solving suggestions. Set aside some time to find out how the team feels about the tasks discussed.
In a Scrum methodology, where the concept of the daily stand-up originated, the follow-up meeting is called the Sprint retrospective. It’s used to receive feedback from the team that lets the meeting facilitator craft better meetings in the future. You should use the same process for your stand-up, regardless of whether or not you’re using Scrum.
Hold your feedback session outside of your stand-up if you find yourself getting near the 15-minute time limit you’ve set. But if you have time left in your meeting for further discussion, then ask how the meeting could have gone better or collect suggestions on how to empower the whole team more. This kind of feedback leads to a more holistic, cooperative conversation that can help you in your next stand-up.
5. Use a checklist for more effective stand-up meetings
If you’re thinking of using a daily stand-up to organize your team’s tasks, use this short checklist to make sure you’ve prepped accordingly:
Before your meeting:
1. Make on-time attendance a priority
Being 10 minutes late for a 15-minute meeting is disruptive to the whole process
2. Everyone stands during the meeting — including remote teams
With the exception of accommodating a disability or special exception, the whole point of the stand-up is to stand up. It keeps attendees focused — and if they sit, they may become complacent. Even when working with remote teams, insist on standing up to sharpen everyone’s concentration.
3. Can your agenda be addressed completely in 15 minutes or less?
If your agenda is more than a page long, consider splitting it up. Prioritize just what you need to know about today’s tasks.
During the meeting:
1. Restate goals, so everyone is on the same page
2. Ask the most important questions first
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Are you facing any roadblocks that need to be addressed?
6. Try asynchronous stand-up meetings
With a stand-up that doesn’t have a synchronized time or place, just make sure to set times for when the questions need to be answered (the end of the attendees’ day, perhaps) and let them know all answers should be to you by that set time.
The status update won’t be as immediate as it is in a daily stand-up, but you’ll still receive participation from the entire team, regardless of where they’re located.
Make your stand-ups count — and save some time
Take these steps to make your daily stand-ups more effective:
- Keep your stand-ups short and focused
- Use templates to inspire and guide your next stand-up
- Introduce some fun to the process
- Set aside time for feedback after
- Use a checklist for more effective stand-up meetings
- Try asynchronous stand-up meetings
Each organization, and each team, is unique. And building a culture of collaboration doesn’t happen all at once. Instead, you have to find your sweet spot in an ongoing way with simple, small experiments.
This stand-up approach came out of our curiosity to explore and expand team collaboration. We encourage you to imagine your own ways of working and explore new ways of working. If you do, please share them with us. We’re here to learn together with you.
You can also use a free, interactive template to apply these tips in your next team stand-up with Mural’s Free Forever Plan. Mural's Free Forever Plan now lets you test drive ready-to-use templates for hundreds of popular meeting types and goals and apply the tips in this article. When you facilitate stand-ups in Mural, you gain an effective and helpful assistant to help run your next Agile meeting.
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